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Liberals Widen Lead on Eve of Throne Speech


[Ottawa – October 16, 2013] Three months ago, things were looking up for the federal Conservatives. The fireworks and revelry of Canada Day were drumming up confidence in national direction and, with the media’s preoccupation with Senate scandals fading away with the summer heat, the Conservative Party pulled its way into a statistical tie with the newly resurrected Liberals.

It seems, however, that with the onset of fall and a renewed focus on federal affairs, Conservative fortunes have drifted away along with the summer. The Liberals now hold a commanding 10-point lead over the Conservative Party and now out-perform their governing counterparts in every region outside Alberta.

Furthermore, the Liberals hold a lead in every age bracket except for youth, where the NDP claim the lead. The Liberals hold a commanding lead among university graduates, although they continue to trail behind those with no post-secondary education.

The Conservatives still lead handily in Alberta and they continue to do quite strongly among men, high school and college graduates, and baby boomers. They do comparatively poorly, however, among women, Quebeckers, and those under the age of 45 (particularly youth).

The NDP, which saw its numbers tumble earlier this year, has enjoyed a slow but steady rebound due in no small part to their burgeoning popularity with young Canadians. At 25 points, the party is well short of its last election showing, although it is far from out of the race.

So what is causing this improvement in Liberal fortunes? There are a number of factors that could be at play. First, there is the issue of Mr. Harper’s recent decision to prorogue Parliament. Prorogation has always proved itself immensely unpopular with Canadians. Indeed, when Ignatieff held the reigns, his party overtook the Conservatives only twice – in the wake of his coronation in early 2009 and during the prorogation controversy of early 2010. Another explanation is that is that the renewed media focus on the myriad of scandals facing the Senate, as well as the Del Mastro charges, have soured Canadians to the current government and the direction in which we are headed. However, we have no direct evidence that either of these factors are the cause and these points are purely speculative at this time.

A more plausible explanation is that the continued erosion of economic outlook and, in particular, a rising sense of lost control is behind this shift. In particular, the weak performance of the youth labour market may be why young Canadians are moving to other choices. There is a clear, negative correlation between Conservative support and those who see worse economic outcomes on the horizon. Furthermore, confidence in both direction of the country and the federal government is nearing an all-time low. Indeed, confidence in direction of government has now become a mirror of federal party support – those who say the Government of Canada is moving in the right direction are almost exclusively found in the ranks of Conservative supporters while those outside the party camp are nearly unanimous in their view that the government is going in the wrong direction.

Whatever the cause, it will be interesting to see whether or not these numbers hold through until 2015.

Perhaps the more interesting finding of this poll is not the voters’ first choice, but rather their second choice. While 36 per cent of decided and leaning voters told us that they would vote for the Liberals were an election held today, 19 per cent also say they would consider the party as an alternative option, giving the Liberals a vote ceiling of 55 per cent. The NDP have even more room to expand (24 per cent), giving them a potential vote ceiling of 49 points. The Conservatives, meanwhile, seem largely eroded to their core base of supporters, with just one-third of Canadians indicating they would consider voting for them. These voters, however, are fiercely committed to their party and the majority would not even consider voting for another party, be it the Liberals, the NDP, the Greens, or the Bloc.

So what are the implications here? Well, nearly half of Liberal supporters (49 per cent) would consider voting NDP, while a similar proportion of NDP voters (45 per cent) would be open to swinging Liberal. Do the math and we see that roughly one-third of the electorate identifies itself as left-of-centre and would consider voting Liberal or NDP. With Conservative supporters largely isolated from this battle for the centre-left, it seems that the key battle for the next election will not be a Liberal-versus-Conservative or NDP-versus-Conservative, but rather Liberal-versus-NDP.

While vote-splitting will certainly be key to any success of the Conservative party in the next election, it may not be enough to propel the party to another election victory in 2015 (and will certainly not be enough at these numbers). Combined, the Liberals and the NDP control 61 per cent of the vote, up from 54 per cent in July. These numbers do not leave a lot of room for a Conservative government, despite the centre-left’s cannibalistic practice of consuming each other’s votes. These dynamics may, however, raise the issue of a coalition government.

Click here for the full report: Full Report (October 16, 2013)

6 comments to Liberals Widen Lead on Eve of Throne Speech

  • Harper must realize it is all over for him at the next election.

  • Colin MacWhirter


    Interesting poll, but there are some layout errors that need fixing. The results for “Second Choice” have the headings for the NDP and Conservative switched. Similarly, in the demographic breakdosn for “direction of government”, the order of “Current Vote Intention” of Liberals, Conservatives and NDP have all been misassigned.

  • @Colin MacWhirter

    Wow, good catch. Thanks!

  • Steve

    I wonder what a minority government would be like, right now.

    Harper or Trudeau?

  • Steve

    If the Tories win a minority government, I doubt to other parties would form a collision. They don’t have the chemistry this time.

  • Steve

    I am vote Liberal because of the hateful comments, Tory supporters, post on Yahoo.

    They call environmentalists, tree-huggers.
    They call dairy farmers, cheese-heads.
    They call liberals, (small “L”) a mental disorder.
    They call First Nations, Indians.

    I am tired of this.